This is 40

I turned 40 on November 2 and I feel fabulous. Every day feels like a celebration. Every day is another day spent not giving a shit about things I once gave a shit about. In celebration of me, I am gifting you all with a list of memories I have of technology throughout my lifetime, documented with Mad Men-like accuracy.

Some ground rules for reading this: If you are too young, too in awe of the youthful elasticity of your own skin to understand this list, then I ask you to Google it. Consider that one day you too can experience the feeling of adolescents looking at you with pity when you tell them the perils of once having to find an outlet to charge your smartphone, much like when I tell my teenage daughter the perils of rewinding a cassette tape.


We crossed a major technological threshold: My parents moved from the Poke Your Kid on the Shoulder method of changing the TV channel to forcing their kids to sit themselves in front of a channel changing console. This device, the size of a goddamn piano keyboard, was one of the first iterations of what would one day become the remote control. Only, there was nothing remote about it. It was still attached to the TV by a stiff cord that was a mere three feet long. I was the designated channel changer, sitting in my pyjamas, pressing these buttons with great force between Family Ties and Give Me Break.


Months before the birth of my baby sister, my parents decided to update the technology in our home. They brought home this contraption called a microwave. We thought it was a miracle…or the work of the devil. Either way, it made meal preparation easier, which was great considering we were kids of working class immigrant parents and had to learn to cook for ourselves at an early age. I still remember being at the side of the microwave (not in front, mind you, since we were told it used the same energy used in an atomic bomb to heat our food) dancing with my older sister to the beat of the timer. For the first few weeks, we did this dance. “Twelve! Eleven! Ten!” we’d shout out while doing our interpretations of break dancing. After a month, the novelty wore off.


For my birthday, I was gifted a pair of radio headphones. It was exactly what the name suggested: a radio device inside a set of massive headphones. I flicked the switch on the side of my head, extended the two-foot long antenna and enjoyed the sounds of Madonna’s True Blue over its speakers. I danced in the privacy of my bedroom, amazed that the song could only be heard by me and no one else. Before then, music was always heard through a set of communal speakers with music dictated by my parents and their outdated tastes. Yes, it weighed as much as an anvil and may have contributed to a neck injury or two. Yes, the antenna was long enough that it knocked some of my belongings off my shelves when I danced my heart out to Madonna. But the music was all mine and it was glorious.


While at Ryerson Theatre School, I decided that the most responsible choice I could make in my acting career was to get a pager. That way, if my talent agent wanted to reach me, I simply had to bend my hip slightly to see if it was a numerical message (no, not a text message. A numerical message, where numbers were codes for “Call me back” or “Emergency”) or if it was a voicemail message. If it was a voicemail message, no problem! I just had to find a pay phone, which at that time were at every corner of the city. I would then have to shell out the quarter to check my messages and write down any pertinent information using a pen and paper. If I had to call someone back, I would down another quarter into the pay phone and call my agent back. Easy! Life was so easy. Tasks like this were done as swiftly as a water buffalo traverses a rice terrace.

The best part about having a pager, though, was the size of the thing. Mine was the size of a refrigerator clipped onto my hip. But it was covered in military-grade plastic. Back then, technology was built to last. I know this since my pager fell off my hip, fell into the crack between the subway platform and a moving train. It sparked from the friction all along the platform. When the train came to a complete stop, I picked up my pager and it was flawless and functional.


Just after my 30th birthday, I posted on Facebook that I was selling my CD towers. No one bought them. I left them on the curb. No one took them. I felt the tide shifting in my body and began the countdown to my fortieth year.


On my way to my birthday celebration with my family, I slipped in a mixed CD into my car’s console. I knew I could use my phone’s Bluetooth to play much more updated song choices. But I was finally 40 and keeping up with technology didn’t seem as important as jamming out to Jodeci’s Cry for You on full blast.

Catherine Hernandez

Catherine Hernandez is playwright, performer and award-winning author. She is the author of M is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book (Flamingo Rampant) and Scarborough (Arsenal Pulp Press). She is the Artistic Director of b current performing arts.

Read all posts by Catherine Hernandez

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